Thursday, 13 February 2020

The 39th Hong Kong Film Awards (2020)

If like me you love a good HK movie, then you may be aware that the film award season is upon us. America’s Golden Globes and their Oscars have been and gone, marked only by the facts that Ricky Gervais wins all the awards just for his mass celebrity roast, and Parasite took home the best film, despite being FOREIGN (how that happened in Trump’s America is anyone’s guess, but then, as it’s about class wars and the haves and have-nots, maybe it’s not that much of a mystery right now).

Now it’s Asia’s turn.

Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards happen ever November, which for me kicks off the award season. It gives a good indication of the HK front runners - and if there are any. There are the Golden Rooster Awards every year in China, but honestly it’s treated like it’s an inside secret known only to the mainland - and to be honest it’s a bit like the Oscars except without the best foreign anythings.Then there’s the Asian Film Awards, which is a much smaller affair whose main purpose is to kick off the Hong Kong International Film Festival every year. South Korea has the Blue Dragon Awards (at last, something not made of gold!). India has literally at least 20 different film awards every year, which is not surprising when you consider that they are still the world’s biggest film producer in terms of numbers. In 2016 they made 1,903 films - the US managed 798 while the UK made 200, just to put this in perspective. Also, just to set the records straight - the US is the third most popular film industry in terms of numbers of cinema tickets sold, after China, and then India. However, interestingly enough, Hollywood is the most profitable film industry in terms of revenue. Hmm. Not saying their tickets are too expensive, but their tickets are too expensive.

Anyway, bearing in mind that I’m biased toward Hong Kong movies, I wait for the HK film awards every year. It’s a chance to get a definitive list of new films that I can peruse, and if they win an award, maybe I’ll watch them before others on the list - or not. If I don’t like the sound of the blurb I’ll probably give it a miss. Tragic love stories almost always get binned from the outset.

Where are we this year? Well, let’s go with the films that garnered the most nominations first, shall we?

The 39th Hong Kong Film Awards (2020)


Better Days (少年的你) - 12 nominations

Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best New Performer, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Costume & Makeup Design, Best Original Film Score, Best Original Film Song

Fagara (花椒之味) - 11 nominations

Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume & Makeup Design, Best Original Film Score, Best Original Film Song, Best Sound Design

i’m livin’ it (麥路人) - 10 nominations

Best Film, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor x2, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Costume & Makeup Design, Best Original Film Score, Best Original Film Song, Best New Director

Suk Suk (叔‧叔) - 9 nominations

Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best New Performer, Best Film Editing, Best Costume & Makeup Design

Ip Man 4 The Finale (葉問4完結篇) - 9 nominations

Best Director, Best New Performer, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Costume & Makeup Design, Best Action Choreography, Best Original Film Score, Best Sound Design

My Prince Edward (金都) - 8 nominations

Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Film Editing, Best Original Film Score, Best Original Film Song, Best New Director

Beyond the Dream (幻愛) - 6 nominations

Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best New Performer, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Design

A Witness Out of the Blue (犯罪現場) - 6 nominations

Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Action Choreography

The White Storm 2 Drug Lords (掃毒2天地對決) - 4 nominations

Best Action Choreography, Best Original Film Song, Best Sound Design, Best Visual Effects

The New King of Comedy (新喜劇之王) - 3 nominations

Best Film, Best Supporting Actor, Best New Performer

Line Walker 2 (使徒行者2諜影行動) - 3 nominations

Best Action Choreography, Best Visual Effects, Best New Director

For the full story, head over to the official page. The ceremony is due to play out on 19th April, but here's the thing; due to political unrest and now this pernicious coronavirus, the actual date is in doubt.

It may be held live as usual, but Vegas money says it will either be delayed until May or be held behind the hygienic safety of a pre-recorded presentation ceremony without a live audience.

Here’s hoping this whole coronavirus thing is over soon - I believe HK needs a little frivalous distraction right now, and this would go down well.

For now though, I’m happy that Ip Man 4: The Finale has two fist fulls of nominations, and Aaron Kwok is once again in with a shout.

Fingers crossed all round, then.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Nostalgia vs NOTstalgia part I: the Homework

Recently I was talking about Jay Chou 周杰倫 with a colleague at work - basically saying he’s the best classical-music-Chinese-traditional-new-wave-rapper she’s never heard of. Unsurprising really, as he records in Mandarin for the Taiwan market (however, he’s also kind of a big deal around southeast Asia and parts of the US).

Seth Rogen and Jay Chou - the Green Hornet 2011
On the back of this it made me miss the 2011 big-screen remake of The Green Hornet as he stars as Kato. I pulled this out and watched it again and, all over again, enjoyed it for the fun and frolics and basic Charlie’s-Angel’s-2000-with-Boys feel to it. I know lots of people hated it or derided it for the way it dumbed-down the character of Britt Reid - and it was never going to have Bruce Lee in it. While it did make Reid out to be a major dumbass who actually needs the Hornet Gun, it also expanded on Lenore Case’s role so that she wasn’t just coming into the office to tell Reid some plot is going down. On balance, not a bad thing. It also showed what Kato actually did - yes, he made a coffee machine, but now he was also a gadgets whizz who could sketch schematics and make them himself, reworking polycarbonate (the stuff they make shark tanks out of) into car windshields, turning everything bullet-proof and adding proper Ben Hur tyre rippers to the nice custom wheels. He had lines, a role, a real life - even a back story. From the streets of Shanghai to the fabulous mansion of one James Reid newspaper mogul, Kato was now a modern American success story.

To be honest, I had never seen any Bruce Lee TV work as it’s so hard to get hold of, so part of me wondered what the original 60s version had been like. The way people were whaling on the 2011 movie, you’d think it was shitting on Desilu Studios’ Star Trek. So what was all the fuss about? Had the original really been that good? It was time to find a copy of the original 1966 Green Hornet and find out.

Van Williams and Bruce Lee - the Green Hornet 1966
First of all - some context. Imagine it’s 1966. Well I know you can’t do that - I can’t do that as I was born in the 70s. So let’s instead imagine your choice of TV that night. The British series Doctor Who had already been on the BBC in England for three years (in black and white), however it would be another six before it would be shown on US television. The high-camp, high-colour crowd-pleaser Batman had exploded on the scene and was doing pretty ok. Bonanza and The Andy Griffith Show were going strong, Lucille Ball was at it again with the very successful The Lucy Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show was still winning Emmys, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was still charming audiences, and more and more US TV watchers had colour television sets and wanted more Technicolor content.

Where did the Green Hornet fit in? To begin with, this wasn’t his first disco. He was originally a radio drama that started in 1936, after George W. Trendle wanted to add another proper fun, righteous radio serial to the airwaves alongside the successful The Lone Ranger (interesting fact: the Green Hornet was the grandnephew of the Lone Ranger, hence the similar eye-mask). Arriving full-fleshed out and with built-in audience awareness, the series wasn’t the massive hit the network wanted but it did well enough, being syndicated to all parts of the States and beyond - in the early 1970s it was playing in Hong Kong where the voracious TV audience referred to it as ‘The Kato Show’, for obvious reasons. However back at home in the US it ran for one season of twenty-six episodes before it was cancelled by its parent the ABC network.

Van Williams & Bruce Lee - the Green Hornet 1966
In that time it had had a few crossovers with Batman (I remember seeing a rerun of this when I was about seven or eight - Batman and Robin are ‘climbing’ up the side of a building, as you do, and Kato and the Hornet open one of the windows and stick their heads out as they go past. I remember asking my Dad who the heads were, as I got the feeling I was supposed to know them and get some kind of joke. He said they were from ‘another famous TV show at the time - the name escapes me’) and although it continued to bring in viewers, the ratings declined and eventually the inevitable happened. Interesting to note is that Van Williams, the superhero-chinned, charming lead who played Britt Reid, was constantly pushing for Kato to have more airtime and more lines (sometimes he was lucky to get three lines an episode). The network refused - Kato was not white American, and besides, splitting airtime that only ran to twenty-eight minutes anyway would take focus off the star. If they had let Kato speak a bit more, and use more of his innate talent for beating the crap out of henchmen and villains, perhaps the show would have had a second season. But who knows, eh? The path not taken.

This brings us to the show itself; was it any good? Everyone looks back at things past with rose-tinted glasses - but I’d never seen it in the first place. What would I, who grew up on 80s TV, reruns of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., comics, superheroes and spy films, make of it in today’s climate?

In the best traditions of the old-fashioned serials (and today’s arc-for-a-season Netflix bingeing), you’ll have to wait until the next post to find out. Gotcha!


Sunday, 1 December 2019


I moved to Manchester a little over a year ago. All my friends are in the South or in other countries. This can make you feel somewhat frustrated; you want to go do that thing you like but the people who would have gone with you are not here. Logical choice, then: go on your own or find other people to go with.

I’ve been going on my own for a year. It’s comfortable, and nice, and agreeable to be able to do what you want when you want without constraints. But, as any writer or reader will tell you, conflict causes plot. Without conflict you have no story.

I joined a meet-up app. It lists tonnes and tonnes of interest groups you can join - crocheting, hiking, learning another language, brunch for chats and bants, movies - anything where you need more than one person to make it a thing.

Anyone who knows me also knows that as an INTJ I don’t choose to mix with people because they are People©, and I don’t like People©. Like K says, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it”. However, when you aren’t beholden to anyone else, you can choose to go see a movie but when you wake up and it’s cold outside, you choose to sack it off as a bad job because, well, you can.

I’m also not good at plans. I mean, I can make plans and I can stick to them, but only when it’s at work or with someone else involved - because if there’s one thing I try to achieve it’s to do what I say I will. If I tell you a project will be ready for Friday, then it’ll be ready for Friday. If I tell you I’ll sort something by 4pm, then I’ll sort it by 4pm. However, when I tell myself I’m going to watch a movie on Saturday, I get to that point 2 hours before it starts, check the bus timetable, and then decide I can’t be arsed. I back out. Because at that moment when I made the plan, I believed I was going to follow it through. But now I’m bored and restless, now I can’t make myself do it.

Odeon cinema Great Northern - Manchester
I joined the app. I found a movie club. I like movies a lot and it’s my escape, so why not? However, every movie that has come up as a group + social meet-up afterwards has been a film I’ve either already seen or have no wish to see. Cinema tickets are relatively cheap in the city centre (£5 at the Vue, Printworks, or £6 at Odeon Great Northern, compared to my old Cineworld Poole of £10.95) so I can get an all-day bus ticket and a film for the same price as a cinema ticket where I used to live. Down there I had a Cineworld Unlimited card, so for about £17.50 a month I could see a boundless amount of movies. I only had to watch 2 a month and I’d saved money. However up here, when the tickets are £5-£6, there’s no point getting an Odeon card for £20 a month - and especially as half the time the foreign language films I want are only on at the Vue, not Odeon anyway.

I digress.

I joined the app and finally, yesterday, I made myself go to one. We saw Knives Out, the Rian Johnson comedy whodunnit, which wasn’t really a comedy and not actually a whodunnit - review in another post. Afterwards we went to the official rendez-vous bar; the organiser reserves tables for us and we pile in and drink, dissect the movie or just get pie and chat about other things entirely.

As a format, it’s a great concept. It’s like renting friends for the night - and then when you find the same people turn up to each movie, they aren’t rent-a-friends but actual movie going friends. And eventually, you’ve accomplished things to solve the problem you first started out with: you now have friends you can call to see films or do something else related, and you still get to see films and talk about them with people who share your want to do so.

That was my first meet-up and I’m calling it a success. While it was brass monkey weather outside, and the bus ride home gave me shoulder/neck problems because I hunched into my three layers plus a weather-proof jacket and scarf, the day was a success and I find myself actually looking forward to the next one. It’s probably next Saturday, so it’s all good.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Now to do all the usual Sunday things like cleaning, the washing and making work dinners for the coming week.

Peach and lube, people. Peach and lube.

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